What is a blizzard?
A blizzard is a heavy snowstorm with very cold temperatures, sustained winds of at least 35mph, and visibility of less than 0.25 miles. When a mass of polar air and warm air meet, the polar air pushes the warm air up and settles in the atmosphere where the water vapor forms snow clouds. Then winds and low temperatures combine with the snow to create a blizzard. During blizzards it can be difficult to see or breathe. Blizzards can kill people, cause traffic accidents, and bring cities to a halt.
The Midwestern U.S. and central Canada is often referred to as "blizzard country." People in "blizzard country" have experienced the dangers and inconveniences of snowstorms. They build houses with steep roofs so snow won't pile up and farmers even purposely plant wheat in the fall. It is protected by the snow that covers the ground in the winter and is watered by the melting snow in the spring.
After a blizzard there is still the job of removing the snow. Snowplows are sent to work clearing the roads. Sometimes the snow becomes rock-solid making the job nearly impossible unless strong, tough plows can be used or warmer temperatures soften the snow.
"The Great White Death"
The Great Blizzard of '49 was the worst blizzard the U.S. has ever known. This famous blizzard also known as the "Great White Death" was actually a series of blizzards that lasted for seven weeks. They began in Wyoming and Colorado, then spread over most of the West. To save cattle and sheep, the U.S. Air Force dropped 1,500 tons of hay. More than 100 people and 1 million heads of livestock were killed in this deadly blizzard.
To protect themselves when blizzards are forcast, residents should have a checklist of things they need to do. On it should be:
- Fill bathtubs with water in case pipes freeze.
- Make sure windows and doors are tightly closed and anything movable in the yard is tied down or brought inside. Bring in pets too!
- Be sure to stock up on food, especially food that doesn't need to be cooked, refrigerated, or frozen.
- Have batteries for flashlights and radios. Unless it is necessary stay indoors.
Did you Know?
Did you know that the number one cause of death during a winter storm is heart attacks while shoveling?
Did you know that it's never too cold to snow? Snow can occur at any time when the temperature is near or below freezing.